Recession Angel: Anonymous Donor Gives School $3.5M

St.Philips Academy announces anonymous donation of $3.5 Million.

Even in the depths of the recession, a number of Americans have stepped forward to help those in need through extraordinary acts of generosity and kindness.

Call them recession angels -- people who have taken their own money to help their communities as everybody else pulls back on spending.

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St. Philip's Academy, a private school serving disadvantaged children in Newark, N.J., was the beneficiary of one recession angel's largesse: a $3.5 million donation. The award is one of the largest in the school's history. It will help pay for students' tuition, aid for students' families if they have fallen on hard times, a new summer program for public school children held at St. Philip's, and some of the costs of a new school building.

The donor's identity has been kept private.

"I think that the donor wants to enjoy the fact that he's given to the school without gloating about it," said St. Philip's Chief Administrative Officer Tom Hooper.

The sluggish economy has taken its toll on St. Philip's student body, which includes 375 children in kindergarten through eighth grade. School officials say that greater financial need by students means that the school will give away more than $1 million in tuition aid in the next school year. For the current school year, St. Philip's financial aid awards have totalled roughly $900,000.

"In these times, when so many people are cutting back and so many people aren't able to step up and give, this particular donor has said, 'I'll help make a difference right now, this year,'" Hooper said.

The school has had a number of other anonymous donors over the years, including one who left school officials stunned a decade ago. In 2000, a clergyman called the school to say that an anonymous $1 million donation was waiting for St. Philip's officials at a bank in Montclair, N.J. In that case, the school never learned the donor's name.

"We just know they are very gracious people who give generously and are committed to the mission of St. Philip's," said Michael Eaton, the school's director of development.

On the following pages, takes a look at more recession angels.

Woman Bequeaths Entire Estate to College; Anonymous Donors Gives Millions to Other Schools

Grace Groner passed away in January at the age of 100. For much of her adult life she lived modestly in a one bedroom home in Lake Forest, Ill., an affluent Chicago suburb.

Groner's single indulgence was a scholarship program she created for Lake Forest College,, her alma mater. Years ago, she donated $180,000 for a scholarship program that enables some of the college's 1,300 students to pursue internships and study-abroad programs.

But even college administrators were stunned to find out that upon her death Groner bequeathed her entire estate to the college. The total amount: $7 million.

Grace Groner, second left, stands with her twin sister Gladys at Lake Forest College in Chicago, in this Feb. 1928 file photo.

Stephen Schutt, Lake Forest's president, told the Chicago Tribune that he knew of Groner's plan for her estate for more than a year, but that he had no idea how large the gift would be until after her death.

Equally amazing in an era of gyrating financial markets is how Groner amassed her wealth. It stemmed from a $180 stock purchase she made some seven decades ago, her attorney and long-time friend told the Tribune.

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